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Mario Andretti joins NBCSN’s F1 coverage from Monza this weekend

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Racing fans will be treated to the voice of one of the greatest drivers of all-time this weekend. Mario Andretti will join NBCSN’s coverage of the Formula One Italian Grand Prix from historic Monza for pre-race, race and post-race broadcasts as a guest analyst.

Andretti won at Monza in 1977 and also clinched the 1978 Formula One World Championship there . Andretti’s distinguished list of awards and accomplishments include Driver of the Century honors by both the Associated Press and RACER Magazine, and over 100 victories during his five-decade career.

NBCSN’s comprehensive coverage of the Italian Grand Prix begins on Friday morning with live coverage of practice at 8 a.m. ET. Qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix will also air live on Saturday morning at 8 a.m. ET. Live pre-race coverage of the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday begins at 7:30 a.m. ET, with the race slated to begin at 8 a.m. ET. F1 Extra, NBC Sports Group’s half-hour post-race show, will air immediately following the conclusion of the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday. All are also available on NBC Sports Live Extra live streaming.

Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) cruised to victory in the Shell Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps on Aug. 25, increasing his lead atop the F1 Points Standings over Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) to 46 points with eight races left in the 2013 campaign. Vettel and Alonso have each won the Italian Grand Prix twice; Vettel won in 2008 and 2011, while Alonso took the checkered flag in 2007 and 2010. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) currently sits in third place (139 pts) in the F1 Points Standings, and took first place at the Italian Grand Prix last year.

Here’s Andretti on the experience and the current state of play in F1:

Andretti on joining NBCSN’s Formula One telecast: “I’m flattered to have been asked, and I’m looking forward to joining NBCSN’s iconic team of Formula One announcers. I hope they don’t expect too much because I’m a real rookie – I’ve only done one or two races, and I was paying attention to my son (former Formula One and IndyCar driver) Michael most of the time.”

Andretti on personal significance of Italian Grand Prix: “The Italian Grand Prix has particular significance and importance for me, being Italian and having seen my very first Formula One race right there at Monza. At that point, I can say my real dream of becoming a race car driver began.”

Andretti on the state of Formula One: “Formula One is really enjoying its glory days. It’s probably as well-positioned and interesting as ever. You have five world champions competing at the same time, all young enough to have long careers. The level of talent is probably unprecedented.”

In addition to its live coverage of the Italian Grand Prix, NBCSN’s more than 15 hours of motorsports coverage this weekend will also include TRANSLOGIC and Mobil 1 The GridA full release of NBCSN’s motorsports coverage this weekend is linked here, via the NBC Sports Group Press Box website.

Date Coverage Network Time (ET)
Thur., September 5 TRANSLOGIC: Green Garage Gods NBCSN 11 p.m.
TRANSLOGIC: DeLorean DMC-12 NBCSN 11:30 p.m.
Fri., September 6 Mobil 1 The Grid NBCSN 12 a.m.
F1 Italian Grand Prix – Practice NBCSN 8 a.m.
TRANSLOGIC: Green Garage Gods (Encore) NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Sat., September 7 TRANSLOGIC: DeLorean DMC-12 (Encore) NBCSN 12 a.m.
F1 Italian Grand Prix – Practice (Encore) NBCSN 12:30 a.m.
Mobil 1 The Grid (Encore) NBCSN 2 a.m.
F1 Italian Grand Prix – Qualifying NBCSN 8 a.m.
Sun., September 8 F1 Italian Grand Prix – Qualifying (Encore) NBCSN 12:30 a.m.
F1 Italian Grand Prix NBCSN 7:30 a.m.
F1 Extra NBCSN 10 a.m.
F1 Italian Grand Prix (Encore) NBCSN 1 p.m.
F1 Extra (Encore) NBCSN 3:30 p.m.

Button ‘almost there’ on deciding Formula 1 future

SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 26: Jenson Button of Great Britain and McLaren Honda sits in his car in the garage during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 26, 2016 in Spa, Belgium.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Jenson Button says he is “almost there” on deciding his future in Formula 1 as McLaren continues to deliberate its driver line-up for 2017.

Button is the most experienced driver currently racing in F1, and has been with McLaren since 2010.

Fernando Alonso is set to remain with McLaren for next season, but the team is yet to decide whether it will retain Button or promote junior driver Stoffel Vandoorne into a full-time seat.

Button has been linked with a return to Williams – the team he made his F1 debut with in 2000 – should McLaren drop him.

The 2009 F1 world champion is yet to decide whether or not he will continue in F1 next year, but feels he is close to a decision.

“I am almost there with my thought process and you will hear about it soon. I can’t put a timescale on it, but it will be soon enough,” Button told Press Association.

“I did think about it lot [over the summer]. I didn’t have a lot of time to lie on a sun-lounger and think about it to be fair.

“I was busy, but yes, of course, I thought about it.”

Button’s last race win came at the end of 2012 with McLaren, and has not finished on the podium since the start of 2014 thanks to difficulties with the team’s Honda engine last year.

Although McLaren is on the rise, Button stressed that he wants to be in a car that is capable of battling at the front of the pack in 2017.

“I have always said that if I feel like I can be in a car that is fighting for wins I will definitely stay. I think any racing driver would,” Button said.

“But if I am not and I feel like I am not, there is nothing else for me to achieve. I will go and play darts instead.

“I can’t just sit on the beach. I will do all sorts of racing after F1 whether it is in racing cars, push bikes, or triathlons because I am a competitive person and I always want to win.

“So, that is what I want to do. Something I can fight for wins in.”

Button has been linked with a move into the FIA World Endurance Championship should he decide to call time on his F1 career, and is also likely to take up rallycross in some form, following in the footsteps of his father, John.

A roof popped off a BMW M6 GTLM in IMSA’s VIR first practice

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First practice for this weekend’s Michelin GT Challenge, a GT Le Mans and GT Daytona-only round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at VIRginia International Raceway is in the books.

Fastest times were set by Earl Bamber in the No. 912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR (1:43.232, GTLM and overall) and Madison Snow in the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 (1:45.722, GTD).

Bamber told IMSA Radio’s Shea Adam, “It’s a good way to start the weekend. It’s a new surface; it already seems quicker than last year. The guys at VIR have done a great job to repave it. It’s been pretty difficult the last couple races for us.”

But the session was more notable because it featured a weird interruption, when the roof off the No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM popped off on course.

It left Dirk Werner needing to bring the car, sans the roof and rear window, into the pit lane but luckily without further damage following the inadvertent convertible debut of the car.

Werner’s befuddled co-driver, Bill Auberlen, attempted to explain the situation to Adam.

“I’m telling you… I’m dying to ask if it was cooler inside the cockpit!” Auberlen told IMSA Radio, noting how hot it is on track, as well (ambient temperatures are expected in the mid-90s with track temperatures in the 110-115 range).

“So no, we did not plan on this. This is very odd. It’s bizarre how the roof would blow off the thing.

“I went in the grass once. Couldn’t get the downshfits accomplished. Now this. Maybe we get all the troubles out now.

“But now the roof blew off? No idea how, it’s just bad luck.”

Here’s pics and a few tweets about the abnormal incident:

Dover agrees to sell Nashville track to real estate company

NASHVILLE, TN - JULY 15:  Scott Dixon driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara Honda, and Dario Francitti driver of the #27 Canadian Club Andretti Green Racing Dallara Honda, lead the field during the IRL Indycar Series Firestone Indy 200 on July 15, 2007 at the Nashville Superspeedway  in Lebanon, Tennessee.  (Photo by  Gavin Lawrence/Getty Images)
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Dover Motorsports Inc. has a new buyer for the Nashville Superspeedway in a commercial real estate development company.

The motorsports company said Thursday that Panattoni Development Company will buy the superspeedway for $27.5 million and also take over Dover’s obligations under bonds issued in 1999 to help build infrastructure supporting the track. The bonds currently have a balance of $17.2 million, and Panattoni will replace Dover Motorsports’ letter of credit with its own.

Dover expects the sale to close in 2017 pending zoning approvals.

This is the second time Dover announced a buyer of the 1.33-mile concrete track about 30 miles east of Nashville that closed in 2011. Dover announced in May 2014 a deal selling to NeXovation Inc. worth nearly $46 million, which later fell through.

Rosberg praises Mercedes for ‘great job’ on F1 Halo

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Nico Rosberg has praised Mercedes for doing a “great job” in designing the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection that may be introduced to Formula 1 in 2018.

Following the deaths of F1 driver Jules Bianchi and IndyCar’s Justin Wilson in 2015 from head injuries sustained while racing, the FIA has placed improving cockpit safety high on its agenda in 2016.

The Halo made its public debut in pre-season testing and underwent brief testing on race weekends before the F1 Strategy Group opted to delay its introduction until 2018 at the earliest.

Opening practice for the Belgian Grand Prix on Friday saw the most extensive Halo test yet as Rosberg, Nico Hulkenberg, Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniel Ricciardo all completed laps with it fitted to their cars.

Rosberg set his fastest practice time using the Halo, and called its trial a “success” when reflecting on his running.

“The team have done a great job on the Halo. It doesn’t disturb me when driving,” Rosberg said.

“I could go fast straight away and even set the best time of the session with it this morning, so I think that was a success.”

Rosberg topped FP1 before focusing on race pace in second practice at Spa-Francorchamps, finishing the session in sixth place.

The German was pleased with his running, believing that tire management will be key come Sunday’s race.

“Car-wise we seem to be quick,” Rosberg said.

“The grid is a bit all over the place this afternoon with people doing different things with the tires. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out in the race. Long run pace will be important as you can overtake here.

“I don’t know how we’re looking yet – we’ll need to look into that.

“But there was a lot of tire degradation, so managing that on Sunday will be important.”